The Clean Water Blog

Protect the Great Lakes, Shut Down Line 5

The Latest Developments in the Fight to Shut Down Line 5

For the past three years, one of our main campaigns in Michigan has been the effort to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. The campaign has taken many different turns over the past three years, and this summer is going to be crucial, as we prepare for a public comment period for Gov. Snyder’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board meeting that will run from July 6th to August 4th.

The Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) has spent the past two years commissioning studies and looking into some of the glaring problems with Line 5, however they have no authority to actually decommission the pipeline. The most they could do would be to recommend decommissioning the pipeline, which is also unlikely at this point, given the fact that the oil and gas industry is well represented on the PSAB itself (including spots for Enbridge itself, and Marathon) and that the studies they have commissioned are being funded by Enbridge and administered by contractors with close business ties to Enbridge.

Over the course of the PSAB meetings, more evidence has come to light about the condition of Line 5, raising concerns that it is in even worse shape than we had previously thought. For instance, it was revealed this last winter that there are 19 separate places in the Straits crossing where the protective coating on the outside of the pipeline has peeled back, exposing the steel of the pipe to the hectic currents of the Straits. It was also revealed recently that Enbridge had 16 different spans that were each more than 140 feet long where anchor supports were missing, leaving the pipeline susceptible to bending. Their easement that allows the pipeline to continue to function mandates that they have anchor supports every 75 feet, it also mandates that the protective coating is intact and functioning. These are good enough reasons for our Governor and Attorney General to permanently decommission Line 5 without further delay. Instead, they continue to wait for a final report from PSAB before even considering fulfilling their legal duty to protect the Great Lakes by permanently decommissioning this dangerous, outdated pipeline.

The stalling tactics coming from the state have gone on for too long. It has been more than 700 days since AG Schuette first said that Line 5’s days were numbered, and he still refuses to give us a number. Earlier this week, the state fired DNV GL, the contractor who they had hired to complete the risks analysis, citing conflict of interest because one DNV GL employee was working on the risks analysis, and working for Enbridge on a different project simultaneously. It is highly suspicious that this study was terminated a week before it was supposed to be released to the public. Considering the fact that Brad Shamla, Enbridge’s Vice President of U.S. Operations is on the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board, and would have known about the conflict of interest months ago, this raises questions as to just what is in DNV GL’s risk analysis that the state doesn’t want the public to see.

The public comment period will still be happening from July 6th until August 4th, however, instead of having both the risks study and the alternatives study (which is also rife with conflicts of interest) the people of Michigan will only have the alternatives study to weigh in on. From the beginning, Clean Water Action has insisted that the state of Michigan has a special legal duty to protect the Great Lakes as a public trust, therefore the only study that we need is a study of the risks associated with Line 5. It is Enbridge’s job to figure out a safe way to transport their product, it is Michigan’s job to protect the Great Lakes–and there is plenty of evidence already available that shows the risk is simply too great to allow this dangerous pipeline to continue to operate through the most sensitive part of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Through this public comment period it is crucially important that every Michigander who values our Great Lakes makes their voice heard calling for the immediate decommissioning of Line 5. Four meetings have been scheduled for public comment:

5:00 p.m. on July 6:  Public Information Event, Holt High School

8:00 a.m. on July 24:  Lansing Feedback Session, Holt High School

6:00 p.m. on July 24:  Traverse City Feedback Session, Hagerty Center

6:00 p.m. on July 25:  St. Ignace Feedback Session, Little Bear East Arena

It is important that we fill up these meetings, and show our Governor and Attorney General that the people of Michigan don’t have any more time for delay; we value our Great Lakes too much to allow this pipeline to continue to put our water at risk.